Just Pursuits

ethics and economics.

John Mackey Interview

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Brilliant interview with John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. The essence of “just pursuits”: conscious, rational, clear-headed thinking on ways to better society. Mackey shows where business education has gone wrong, and why capitalism is in need of better “marketing.” Be sure to follow it through to the end.

http://reason.tv/video/show/john-mackey-full-interview

Visit Mackey’s organization here.

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Written by mikeikon

October 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Thought of the Day 10/12/09

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The just man is an enemy of all; an enemy of government, business, the populace, and even himself. He is a friend only to justice.

Written by mikeikon

October 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Thought of the Day

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Government is Really Bad at Protecting the Little Guy

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Jonathan Kovaciny from Campaign for Liberty writes:

Companies only get as big and powerful as they are because government itself allows them to be. Without the protection of the government and the regulations that stifle true competition, these companies would be quickly replaced by other companies that provided what consumers actually wanted at a lower price and without screwing people over. Ask yourself: “If all health insurance companies are evil and constantly screwing the little guy and putting profit ahead of people, then why don’t I get together with some friends and start my own insurance company that is actually nice to our customers and provides a good product at a fair price? People will come in droves to buy insurance from us and we’ll rule the insurance market easily.”

The answer to this hypothetical question is that you can’t. Because the existing insurance companies have so heavily protected themselves with government that you cannot be nice to your customers and stay afloat. If we want to solve this problem, we need LESS government, not more. Government is and will always be the tool of Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Everything. Government is NOT ON OUR SIDE because we only have votes and the Big Guys have the money. When you vote to put the government in charge of protecting us from the companies (through regulations, mandates, etc.), the companies themselves will, in short order, buy off the politicians and regulators and stack the deck in their favor. The companies can screw us over and be protected from retaliation by the system we voted into place.

Read the full article here (I beg of you)

Written by mikeikon

October 11, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Posted in healthcare, political theory

Tagged with ,

Are People Rational? Does it Matter?

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A common argument against markets is that people are not as rational as economists would have us believe.

Now, ‘rational’ in the economic sense is not quite the same as our common interpretation of the word (and often what appears to be irrational is more rational to the individual than it appears on the outside), but let’s put that aside for now.

Let’s assume that people often do utterly fail to behave rationally. My question is, is this really a good justification for casting markets aside? I don’t think so. The advantage of markets is that they encourage people to be rational, by rewarding them for smart decisions and letting them experience the consequences of bad ones. Shouldn’t we, at the very least, be encouraging people to be more rational? Isn’t rationality something that we should value? Does the fact that people do not always behave rationally mean that we shouldn’t let them exercise their own minds and make their own decisions? Does it give us the right to treat them like children instead of fellow mature adults by making their decisions for them? And if their decisions are made for them, what incentive do they have to become better rational thinkers?

But there is yet another important consideration. If it is in fact true that human beings are generally irrational and that we are all human beings, who’s to say that a politician or government bureaucrat will be more likely to be rational than the individuals he or she oversees? Are governments really more rational than market players? Most of those who are in positions of market influence have gained their positions through proving their rationality in the market. This is not likely the case for politicians and bureaucrats.

Written by mikeikon

October 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Posted in economics

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Socialism Runs on Greed too, it Just Removes the Engine

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I often hear the criticism that capitalism runs on greed. In a sense, this may be true. Yet capitalism has a catch: my ‘greed’ must stay within certain boundaries. I cannot lawfully take from you without your consent, nor can I lie to you in order to receive your permission. We have certain so-called ‘natural rights’ (to our bodies, free will, and the fruits of our labor), and these rights form the boundaries that we may exercise our freedom within. Because I cannot cross your boundary without your consent, any boundary crossing must– in some sense– be mutually beneficial to the both of us (the basis of contract law). This creates an incentive for me to work hard and to treat you with respect. In order to serve my own self-interest, I must first serve your interest. Thus, my ‘greed’ is kept in check by your ‘greed.’ At its core, capitalism is based not on greed or even self-interest, but on the principle of non-aggression– the foundation of civil society.

In a socialist system, the boundary is different. If rights exist at all, they are not absolute, and may be subject to the will of select individuals or a majority vote. Because of this, I do not necessarily have to follow the principle of non-aggression. The difference between this and social chaos is that I go through a third party (the government), which performs the aggressive act for me on my behalf.

It seems to me that– rather than conquer greed– such a system legitimizes and institutionalizes envy. It says that, instead of having to get the permission of my neighbor to share in his wealth or his skill by benefiting him in some way or appealing to his sense of charity, I am entitled to it by my very existence. My covetousness is no longer seen as a deadly sin, but as the righteous pursuit of egalitarianism. Socialism elevates material equality to a status greater than political equality (equality of rights and equal protection under the law). Proponents of such a system say that it is fundamentally non-materialistic. Yet if its proponents are really so ambivalent to material pleasures, why do they place such a strong emphasis on the need for material equality?

We can all agree that some degree of self-interest is prudent and morally proper. I submit to you that the line between self-interest and ‘greed’ is the crossing of the boundary of non-aggression without voluntary consent, and that this is the very essence of socialism.

Envy can drive me to better myself, but only if I am prevented from pursuing my goals at your expense. Socialism removes this barrier, allowing me to take from you without creating something of equal value in the process. This creates an incentive for me to treat you as a means to my own ends; to sacrifice yourself for my own benefit rather than to participate in a peaceful exchange that benefits the both of us. This is why the capitalist system generates so much wealth and productivity, while the socialist system only (re)distributes existing wealth. Both run on ‘greed,’ but capitalism confines that greed to an incentive structure that is socially beneficial.

Written by mikeikon

October 11, 2009 at 3:02 am

Thought of the Day 10/10/09

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Politics reveals what people think they want. The market reveals what they really want.

Written by mikeikon

October 10, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Thought of the Day

Nozick on “Utopia”

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From Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). I found this passage incredibly inspiring.

The best of all possible worlds for me will not be that for you. The world, of all those I can imagine, which I would most prefer to live in, will not be precisely the one you would choose. Utopia, though, must be, in some restricted sense, the best for all of us; the best world imaginable, for each of us. In what sense can this be?

Imagine a possible world in which to live; this world need not contain everyone else now alive, and it may contain beings who have never actually lived. Every rational creature in this world you have imagined will have the same rights of imagining a possible world for himself to live in (in which all other rational inhabitants have the same imagining rights, and so on) as you have. The other inhabitants of the world you have imagined may choose to stay in the world which has been created for them (they have been created for) or they may choose to leave it an inhabit a world of their own imagining. If they choose to leave your world and live in another, your world is without them. You may choose to abandon your imagined world, now without its emigrants. This process goes on; worlds are created, people leave them, create new worlds, and so on.

Will this process go on indefinitely? Are all such worlds ephemeral or are there some stable worlds in which all of the original population will choose to remain?

If there are stable worlds, each of them satisfies one very desirable description by virtue of the way the worlds have been set up; namely, none of the inhabitants of the world can imagine an alternative world they would rather live in, which they believe would continue to exist if all of its rational inhabitants had the same rights of imagining and emigrating.

From no association will I be able to get something worth more to them than what I contribute is worth to them . . . No person will imagine a maximally appreciative world of inferior beings to whose existence he is crucial. No one will choose to be a queen bee.

Nor will a stable association consist of narcissistic persons competing for primacy along the same dimensions. Rather, it will contain a diversity of persons, with a diversity of excellences and talents, each benefiting from living with the others, each being of great use or delight to the others, complementing them. And each person prefers being surrounded by a galaxy of persons of diverse excellence and talent equal to his own to the alternative of being the only shining light in a pool of relative mediocrity. All admire each other’s individuality, basking in the full development in others of aspects and potentialities of themselves left relatively undeveloped.

Written by mikeikon

October 8, 2009 at 3:45 am